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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, September 30, 2017 1:00 am

Furthermore ...

Helmke lends name to effort to gender diversify candidate pool

Since 1990, the Richard G. Lugar Excellence in Public Service Series has been training Republican women to participate in local, state and national politics – with impressive results. Its graduates include Ivy Tech President Sue Ellspermann, Medicare and Medicaid administrator Seema Verma, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and hundreds more women serving as elected officials or in key policy roles.

Now, a new nonpartisan series will focus on developing public leaders among northeast Indiana women. The first session of the Paul Helmke School for Public Life begins next month with the support of the former three-term Fort Wayne mayor. The program was announced Thursday night at the inaugural meeting of Advancing Voices of Women, an initiative spearheaded by Rachel Tobin-Smith, Patti Hays, Marilyn Moran-Townsend and Faith Van Gilder to engage more women in community discourse. A series of columns published each Sunday in The Journal Gazette has been part of the initiative.

Helmke, now director of the CivicLeaders Living-Learning Center at Indiana University-Bloomington, agreed to lend his name to the public service series.

“I'm concerned about the future of democracy,” he told the audience of about 65 women via Skype. “I think we need more people running for office, and when you say you need more people running, you're talking about half of the population.”

Helmke said – unlike men – women believe they must be asked to run for office. He also noted the infrastructure to support female candidates is lacking.

“We need you to step up – we really do,” he said.

Helmke will direct the first of the three sessions, focusing on how to get involved in the political process. Andrew Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at IPFW, will lead the second session and the third will feature a panel of women who have been elected to office.

Tobin-Smith said she hopes the series will draw not just women interested in seeking office, but also those who would like to serve on public boards and commissions or are interested in running political campaigns.

The sessions, set for Oct. 19, Oct. 26 and Nov. 2, are limited to 30 participants. Cost is $20 per session or $50 for all three. To register, send an email to